Hello, Goodbye

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. – Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus   One of my habits is to look at Wikipedia’s on-this-date page. That’s how I learned of the Arecibo Message. On November 16, 1974, the Arecibo Observatory sent a greeting to the […]

Burying the Lede

  John Noble Wilford knew that he was writing one of the most important stories of the century: The first human landing on another world. His article — for the front page of The New York Times on July 21, 1969, needed to begin with a sentence that conveyed the immensity of the moment. And […]


  Glances, bases, hearts … That’s what I thought people stole. Who knew this too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_theft   ***     So, I don’t know how I missed this, but apparently we had an interstellar visitor a while back, ‘Oumuamua. I learned about it from this interview with the chairman of Harvard’s astronomy department. I’ve found […]

Astronaut Training

  If I devote just one hour a week to running, I can stay in good shape. I do this by running four times a week on my local track, two miles per outing, and timing myself. In my Gemini days I could make two miles in thirteen minutes, but my time has gradually crept […]


  Occasionally I will pause my lessons to remind students that the cosmos is not easy to comprehend. The other day I had kids take out sheets of loose leaf and turn them sideways. I instructed them to draw a (small) Sun at one end, and, a thumb-width away, a (smaller) Earth. Then I asked […]

I Can’t Explain

    Because this record did not actually promise any sales, there was little incentive for any corporate entity, particularly a recording company, to accelerate the approval process. I asked Jon Lomberg if there was anything missing from the Voyager record for this kind of reason. “The Beatles,” he responded instantly. All four members of the […]

Horizontal Bopp

  Up until last week, had you mentioned New Horizons, I’d have figured you were talking about day care or something. Turns out it’s an interplanetary space probe launched ten years ago. I really need to quit skipping my NASA briefings.     This short New York Times documentary on its mission is both fascinating […]